James Forsyth

Too much information | 21 November 2007

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“It’s nonsense to think of Brown as a principled man who wants a new constitutional settlement,” snorted one Whitehall knight. Over a light Italian lunch he revealed that there are even murmurings against the popular Sir Gus O’Donnell, cabinet secretary and head of the home civil service.

“There’s a lot of anti-Gus feeling about,” he said, tucking into his veal chop. “People are saying he is too close to Brown, that he’s been seduced by the fact that he is inside the big tent. He’s not looking after other cabinet ministers and their departments. He should be telling Brown that he needs more people in the tent and that he should let them make some of the announcements.” This section of Sue Cameron’s FT Notebook last week set tongues wagging across Whitehall, everyone wanted to know who the ‘Whitehall knight’ was. Now someone might have might have hit on a way to find out. They’ve submitted a freedom of information request asking which permanent secretaries have had lunch with Sue Cameron. The Times reports that his has created a certain nervousness in Whitehall.

Normally us hacks are all in favour of freedom of information. But if this request is granted it could be an absolute disaster, scaring people into silence across government. On this matter, the interests of Sir Humphrey and the feral beasts are aligned. Off the record must not go off the menu. 

Hat Tip: Boulton and Co

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

Topics in this articlePolitics